There shall be no use of the surface of the leased premises in the west half of Section 2 and Section 11.It seemed like an innocuous request, he owned all of section 2 & 11 and gave us choice of acreage on which to conduct our operations outside of the western half of the sections. The west side of the section fronted to a fairly busy highway and he had that land surveyed and platted for a subdivision. He certainly didn’t want us having the right to run our access roads through the middle of his intended subdivision, and neither would I in his situation. He did graciously offer to sell us a ‘row’ of the lots so we could build an access road, but his asking price for the lots was, let’s just say, excessive. We ended up agreeing on the deal for the lease which gave us the rights to use the surface of the property on the specified 80 acres.
Fast forward two years. Now I’m working on the surface operations side and we are getting ready to drill this section. We’ll need a padsite, access roads, and right-of-way for a pipeline. The pad-site was pretty easy, the lease specified liquidated damages and we were going to place it on the specified surface usage area. Some of you have probably already figured this out — there was no place to put in a road without building some type of permanent bridge over the ravine that you can see in my crude drawing. Mind you, I looked at a topography map when we decided on the surface usage areas when buying the lease. I made quite certain he was offering me areas that would be suitable for a well location. He knew something that I didn’t — those perfectly flat areas weren’t easily accessible except from the west side of the property (the side we agreed to a no surface provision on).
This put us in the untenable position of having two choice:
- Build a short bridge which would have to be permanent and able to withstand a heavy load.
- Pay the lessors exorbitant price to cross through the western portion of the section.
However, we could have just as easily been up a creek without a paddle. Finding one (cheap) way to access your well pad is a stroke of luck, and 9 times out of 10 when you get caught by a clause designed like this you will be in trouble. So make certain when you sign off on these provisions that you investigate the real reasons the landowner might want them.